The State Effect: Theorizing Immigration Politics in Arizona

Source: Emine Fidan Elcioglu, Social Problems, Vol. 64 no. 2, May 2017
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From the abstract:
How do perceptions of the state shape social movements’ strategies? Drawing on 16 months of participant observation and 70 interviews with activists in Arizona, this article illustrates how the politics of immigration plays out at the grassroots level as a struggle between expanding and restricting the state. Pro-immigrant activists in this study contended that the problem of undocumented migration resulted from the state’s unchecked coercive power. Experiencing this strong-state effect, pro-immigrant activists’ tactics focused on limiting the state’s reach and reinforcing society’s capacity to resist the state. Meanwhile, immigration restrictionist activists attributed the problem of undocumented immigration to the state’s feebleness as a policing entity. In response to this weak-state effect, restrictionist tactics tried to expand the state’s scope and build society’s ability to aid the state. The article concludes by discussing how the strong/weak-state effect framework helps illuminate the field of social relations in which an activist group is embedded and provides an avenue for exploring the relationship between state practices and social movements.